- BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuters)
- A tuberculosis epidemic is raging across Asia and, together with HIV/AIDS,
poses a serious threat to the region's social and economic development,
the United Nations Children's Fund said Friday.
- UNICEF said in a statement eight million new cases of
TB appeared every year and two million people died of the disease, which
attacks the lungs.
- Asia accounts for 70 percent of all TB cases and 10 Asian
countries -- Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan,
the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam -- are among 22 countries with the
highest number of cases.
- The director of UNICEF's East Asia and Pacific Regional
Office, Kul Gautam, said TB was the single biggest global killer of young
women, taking the lives of 750,000 women a year.
- ``The deep stigma of TB often results in women being
ostracized by their families and communities, which in turn has a devastating
impact on the well being of their children, families and society in general,''
he said in the statement.
- ``The result is that many thousands of aspiring families
are driven back into poverty, while those families that were already impoverished
must struggle even harder just to survive.''
- Children were especially vulnerable to the effects of
TB, which was often difficult to diagnose in young children and therefore
difficult to treat effectively.
- Children suffered serious social consequences when someone
in their family had TB. In India, for example, over 300,000 children were
withdrawn from school each year either to go to work to help their families
bear the costs of TB care or due to the stigmatizing effects of the disease.
``Tb Can Be Prevented And Cured''
- ``But TB can be prevented and cured,'' Gautam said. ''Several
countries in Asia, including such low-income countries as Cambodia and
Vietnam, have developed model responses and are well on their way to effectively
controlling the disease.
- ``The medical solutions are well within our reach and
include a six-month directly observed treatment short-course of drugs.
- ``The remaining challenge is to mobilize sufficient political
will to attack TB and to build a social partnership that includes governments,
the business and private sector, concerned institutions, NGOs, and communities
- UNICEF backed a call made in Amsterdam Friday, World
TB Day, by ministers of health, finance and social welfare from around
the world for global action to combat the disease.
- UNICEF, working with other global health agencies, supports
a ``Stop TB'' initiative in the Asia-Pacific. The initiative aims to reduce
TB in the region by 50 percent in 10 years.
- Although some two billion people were infected with TB,
only a relatively small percentage ever develop the disease, it said.
- But TB was opportunistic, and people whose immune systems
had been weakened by HIV/AIDS faced a 30 times greater risk of developing
the disease. Approximately 40 percent of people with HIV/AIDS also developed
TB, and in many countries TB was also the leading cause of death for HIV/AIDS-infected
- Gautam said urgent action was imperative to prevent the
spread of TB and contain treatment costs because the number of multi-drug
resistant forms of TB was on the rise.
- Treating a normal case of TB with a six-month course
of drugs costs as little as $11, but treating a multi-drug resistant case
increased costs at least 100-fold. _____
- China TB Rate One Of World's Worst
- http://www.insidechina.com/features.php3?id=145605 3-25-00
- China has the world's second worst tuberculosis (TB)
rate, Vice Health Minister Yin Dakui said, killing 250,000 people each
year and threatening economic growth as most are of working age.
- China has six million patients, about two million of
whom are contagious, Yin said, adding the problem was second only to India.
- Without effective measures, a further 200-300 million
Chinese might be infected by TB in the next decade and a tenth of them
might become contagious, Yin was quoted as saying in the official China
- TB is worse in China's impoverished rural areas than
in cities where patients have access to better health care, the paper reported.
- The risk is further heightened by the spread of HIV-AIDS
and the rise in the number of internal migrants in China, it said.
- "Hardly any other disease can cause direct damage
to families and hinder social and economic developments more than TB,"
- "It has incurred a great loss to the country as
75 percent of the TB patients are at the working age."
- China set up two major projects to combat the spread
of the disease over the past decade, one of which was funded by the World
Bank, the paper said.
- The 58 million dollar World Bank assisted project was
started in 1992 and involved 13 provinces and cities across china.
- By the end of 1999, 1.5 million contagious TB patients
had been treated, 90 percent of whom were cured. ((c) 2000 Agence France
- Tuberculosis spreading in Afghanistan killing thousands:
- KABUL (AFP) - The protracted Afghan conflict has helped
spread tuberculosis in this impoverished country, killing between 22,000
and 33,000 people every year, health officials said Saturday, marking World
- Mohammad Shah Neikzad, head of the Afghanistan National
Tuberculosis Institute said "tuberculosis deaths come to 22,000 to
33,000 (annually)," adding "there are 20,000 to 30,000 new cases
recorded every year in addition to 44,000 to 66,000 positive cases that
we have at the moment."
- "The disease is spreading all over the country due
to the economic problems of the people," he added.
- He said 75 percent of victims were young people and 70
percent were female.
- Neikzad said the disease was hard to bring under control
as his institute lacked funds.
- The 21-year-long war, which broke out with the 1979-1989
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, had interrupted all tuberculosis control
programmes in the country, he said.
- The ruling Taliban religious militia, which holds most
of the country, is currently battling a northern-based opposition alliance
headed by former defence minister Ahmad Shah Masood.
- He urged the Taliban administration to make a "political
commitment" and the public to cooperate in curtailing the disease
- "The fighting has interrupted our programmes. We
are endeavouring to rehabilitate it," he told a gathering of health
- Mohammad Dayem Kakar, an official from the World Health
Organization (WHO), said there were many tuberculosis patients just waiting
to die due to a lack of health care in the areas close to the frontlines.
- He also said the fighting made it difficult to present
a precise figure for tuberculosis cases in the country.
- There were reports the disease was spreading in central
parts of the country, he said, suggesting other areas were similarly affected.
- "Steps have been taken in the past three years.
But we have not yet reached our targets as regards the disease control,"
Kakar said. "There might be more cases as we lack a precises census
due to fighting."
- According to the WHO official, people in Ghorband and
Darae Souf to the northwest of Kabul, both battle grounds between the Taliban
and Masood, lacked any tuberculosis health care.
- "Ghorbad is a classic example of the disease in
the country," he said.
- But health care was not any better even in the capital's
- Around 20 female patients were languishing in dirty beds
in this two-storey building in the absence of running water, electricity
and proper care.
- A dead, swollen dog was lying only three meters (yards)
away from the hospital's gate which had only one, absent, nurse, three
workers and one official.
- "Our nurse has gone home. These workers take care
of the patients," one official said, adding the patients were fed
only plain rice for lunch and dinner.
- He said MED AIR, an international aid group, was supplying
medicine to the hospital.
- Kathy Fiekert, MED AIR medical coordinator said they
had supported the national institute for the past three years.
- "We support them with medicines and incentives for
the staff," she said.
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